Civil servants, uncivil practices
Sir — The West Bengal government wants to set a thief to catch a thief. It has declared that all postings of West Bengal civil service officers will be overseen by a committee (“Mishra scan on officer postings”, Oct 11). And therein lies the catch. The members of this committee will be ministers of the state cabinet, notably the finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, and health minister, Surjya Kanta Mishra. Now both of these recently got very bad press for the numerous misdeeds of their departments and are hardly the epitomes of good governance themselves. Also, the fact that civil servants resort to underhand means to get a posting of their choice is not unknown and it would be puerile to believe that these ministers will distance themselves from such malpractices. Mishra may have hoped to sound a righteous note by declaring that “no minister will have the liberty to personally choose his departmental officers”. But by depriving the other ministers of this liberty, what is to prevent Mishra and his fellow members of the proposed committee to cash in on the same'
Kaushik Choudhury, Burdwan
Sir — The report, “Salute to Shourie, and 5 more IITs” (Oct 2), about the decision to upgrade five more institutions to IIT-status reminded me of what Jawaharlal Nehru had said while laying the foundation stone of the first Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in 1951. The prime objective of the IITs, he had stated, was to take care of India’s scientific and technical needs and make it more self-reliant. But more than 50 years after their inception, these institutes are far from achieving that objective. It will be difficult to point to a really significant contribution to the nation by the IITs. Before setting up some more IITs, it would have been better to make an objective assessment of the existing ones in terms of academic quality and research output. Is the IITs’ output commensurate with all the Central grants being poured into them'
While the undergraduate programmes of the IITs have managed to maintain their standard, mainly because of the rigorous joint entrance examination, the post-graduate and research programmes leave much to be desired. For a start, a critical assessment of the contribution of the IIT faculty — who enjoy better perks and privileges compared to their counterparts in other technological institutes or universities in the country — to the academic community and industry needs to be made. The IITs may earn money through sponsored research, but often such research and consultancy are only a means for the faculty to fatten their pockets.
Consider next the autonomy given to the IITs. This has come to be a tool for the misuse of money and maladministration, marked by favouritism and double standards. Take the abundance of tea, coffee and snacks, as also the overtime and other allowances given to the employees even for doing official and designated jobs.
The faculty recruitment is yet another drama enacted year after year. Large sums are spent in flying in selection committee members and making arrangements for them. But sadly, merit takes a backseat as senior faculty pick amenable juniors who will do their work. In the circumstances, upgrading more institutes to IIT-status only means magnifying the existing ills that plague the IITs.
Ranjan Sarkar, Kharagpur
Sir — Attention needs to be drawn to the irregular despatch of study material by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, which seriously inconveniences students. I had enrolled for the masters programme in tourism management and would have finished it last year, but for the delay in getting the necessary study material. In fact, I doubt whether I shall be able to sit for the examinations this year too. I visited IGNOU’s material production and distribution division in New Delhi on the advice of my study centre at Kanchrapara. I was told that the books (MTM-12 and MTM-13) were not ready for despatch, but that they could be downloaded from the university website. But, even this turned out to be a wild goose chase. To make matters worse, none of the books or their substitutes is available in the market. Many students have faced similar problems, but the authorities have not taken the necessary action despite frequent reminders.
Md. Saiduzzaman, Murshidabad
Sir — Students of the department of environment and water management at the B.B. College in Asansol are faced with a peculiar problem. Environment and water management was introduced as an honours subject in the BSc degree offered by the college, which is under the Burdwan University. But the marksheet given to students studying this subject does not mention it as an honours subject. This creates difficulties for students seeking admission into postgraduate courses in and outside West Bengal.
Besides, the final year university examinations for the subject are held very late in the year as a result of which students lose out on an academic year. This is unacceptable given the fierce competition today. The state’s higher education minister and the chancellor of Burdwan University should look into the matter as soon as possible so that the problem is rectified and the students are relieved of a nightmarish experience.
Ujjwal Misra, Asansol
Escape from prison
Sir — The fiasco surrounding the arrest and release of Bharat Shah leaves room for much speculation (“Shah walks, cops eat crow”, Oct 2). Shah had been in judicial custody for 15 months because of his links with the underworld. So how is it that suddenly the evidence against him appears unreliable'
By sentencing him with a year’s rigorous imprisonment and then letting him go free because he had already served 15 months in prison, the court made it seem as though the Mumbai police’s attempts to nail Shah were just a ploy. What took the court so long to decide that the tapes presented by the prosecution, allegedly containing conversations between Shah and Chota Shakeel, were “doubtful” evidence' And what about the fact that every one, except for Priety Zinta, refused to testify to Bollywood’s supposed links with the underworld in court, although everyone hints at it' Perhaps money does have a larger role to play than meets the eye. Shah seems to have made a judicious selection of lawyers, some of whom charge hundreds of thousands of rupees a day.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — Everybody knows that Bharat Shah spent 15 months in jail as an undertrial after being accused of having links with the underworld. And now he is free to go home despite being sentenced to a year’s rigorous imprisonment because of the time he has already spent in jail. But this is not fair unless it is proved that he was treated as a person under rigorous imprisonment during his stay in jail. The treatment meted out to an undertrial is undoubtedly different. That Shah’s case would take such a turn is a travesty of justice and a shame.
Udita Agrawal, New Delhi
Sir — The ugly spat between the captain and coach of the Indian hockey team will not help further team unity (“Rajinder, Pillay bury the hatchet”, Oct 1). Such a public display will create a rift which the national team can do without at the moment.
Chandrakanta Patra, Rourkela
Sir — Instead of censuring Dhanraj Pillay for speaking to the media, the Rajinder Singh should concentrate on matters on-field. Singh should realize that the media can play an important and constructive role in reviving interest in the sport and that this bodes well for the future of Indian hockey.
Somen Shaw, Calcutta
Sir — Indians had become quite used to the Pakistan hockey team defeating us. The current team thus must be congratulated for breaking this trend by winning the Asia Cup recently at Kuala Lumpur. Our team’s performance in the last one year has made other teams take notice of us. All we need now is the support of the sport authorities, media and sponsors, to win a medal in the 2004 Olympics.
A.K. Srivastava, Salboni